How to Wash Dishes Once a Week

How to Wash Dishes Once a Week
(And Get Away With It!)
© 2002, 2004 by Janice Green
It’s All About Focus…
Part I: How to leave dirty dishes in the sink until the end of the week
Part II: How to wash all those dishes at the end of the week without losing your cool.
I envy people who have spotless homes and can leave their curtains pulled back and their front doors open without shame. I’ve even taken a stab at getting it together with the help of one of the housekeeping experts, “Fly Lady” (, on the Web.

But for me, I’ve decided it’s a matter of focusing on what is truly important. As a school librarian, I have a whole summer ahead of me, and I don’t want to spend it all trying to catch up on nine months of housekeeping neglect. I love projects. I love to knit and to sew. I enjoy writing and have wanted to get my writing published for years, but something always comes along to snatch my time away. This summer is going to be different!

Part 1: How to leave dirty dishes in the sink until the end of the week

Our children have left the nest so we are only washing dishes for two. If you still have children at home, you must consider a different strategy–the children take turns washing them during the week and you wash them on weekends. If the children are small, put your breakable dishes on a very high cabinet shelf and buy plastic dishes. You may need to involve your husband, especially if you have male children. He must help set the example by taking a turn once in a while. If he protests, remind him that no husband has ever been shot by his wife while washing the dishes!

If your kitchen is conspicuous to your living room or front door, move to another house or put up a three-panel screen to block the view!

Now keep in mind that the purpose in all of this procrastination is to help you focus on your “matter of great importance.” Watching TV or videos doesn’t count, neither does sitting at the computer in chat rooms. If that’s your goal, get off your derriere and wash your dishes–every day!

Plan ahead on meals and make it as easy as possible. Eat boiled eggs and yogurt for breakfast. The pan doesn’t need washing, just empty it out and put it up. Once a week prepare a large pot of goulash or stew. Then cover the leftovers, still in the pot, and put them in the fridge. The next day dip out what you need and heat it up in the microwave. Also keep plenty of hot dogs, pot pies, and TV dinners available to avoid making a big mess cooking. Eat lots of fruit and raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Bake potatoes on a napkin in the microwave. Napkins are great throw-away dishes! Eat out once or twice a week where you will have a good choice of vegetables to help compensate for irregularities in your diet.

A major problem in this plan can be one of running out of dishes before the week is up. Take an inventory to be sure you have a reasonable number of plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware. If you don’t have at least service for 8-12, you may need to add to your supply. Keep in mind those dishes you use most and buy extras. You may also have to learn to settle for a plate instead of a bowl for goulash.

It is forgivable to make up a very small amount of dishwater in a bowl or large cup to dawdle out a few clean spoons or a few bowls or glasses. But remember, this is only for the purpose of enabling you to focus on your “matter of great importance.” No fair if you are only watching the soaps.

Managing the sink may become a problem as the dishes pile up. It helps to keep all the dirty dishes on one side of a double sink as much as possible so you can still wash your hands and fill a glass with water without bumping into other dishes. It also helps to make some attempt at keeping them stacked in an orderly way.

OK! So far, so good. You are approaching the end of the week. The second sink is beginning to accumulate dishes and there is probably a shortage of countertop space by the sink as well by now. You are ready for Part II.

Part II: How to wash all those dishes at the end of the week without losing your cool.

Visually size up the mess. Don’t start stacking and re-arranging yet, it can be too overwhelming and you might just walk away and never come back. Before your husband divorces you over this, you must keep your cool.

Locate your largest container, preferably a dirty pan like your goulash pot that holds a gallon of liquid. That is the first thing you will wash. First rinse out any loose mess, and then fill it with hot dishwater. If you don’t have one such container among your dirty dishes, use a clean one. Balance it by setting it at the front of your double sink with the side farthest away from you supported by the divider. That should provide stable support. Then pick out the largest, most obnoxious pieces to wash next. These are the pieces that fill up your dish rack so fast it will make your head swim. Mixing bowls, plastic storage containers, yogurt cups you are saving for temporary flower pots, pans… These pieces are the ones that are always in your way, so don’t save them ’til last, get them washed, and out of your way. It’s amazing how quickly this will trim the rest of the job down to size. This is also a good time to pick out your silverware and wash it, though it can wait with the other dishes as well. Finish washing the big pan, dry it and put it away.

Now you have more wiggle space and you can begin to stack and get your sink ready for more serious dishwashing. Put everything in one side of the sink while you rinse out the other side eliminating the gunky stuff you don’t want in your dishwater. Then fill the empty side with dishwater and transfer your dishes into it beginning with silverware if you haven’t already washed it, then dinner plates, smaller plates and ending with glasses.

While these dishes are soaking, dry the odd dishes and pans in your dish rack. They should have had time to partially dry already, especially if you rinsed them in very hot water. The hotter your dishes get when you rinse them, the faster they dry. Always keep this in mind when you are in a hurry. Don’t dry yogurt cups and stuff like that–give them a shake and set them out on your table to finish drying, or better yet, throw them away–you really don’t need them anyway.

Wash your glasses next and put them steaming hot into the dish rack, bottoms up. As they begin to drip dry, wash the bowls. Then back to the glasses, dry only the outside of the glasses and the top rim and put them right side up in your cabinets. They can finish drying there as easily as in your dish rack and nothing wet is touching the cabinet. Next rinse your bowls in steamy hot water and space them out across your dish rack to maximize the air flow around them as you begin washing your plates. Put plates in the rack so they stand up straight–don’t lean them against one another or they will take much longer to dry. Hand dry only as much as necessary to get them into the rack.

Somewhere at this point in the process you may want to take a short break. Treat yourself to a bowl of strawberry shortcake or ice cream while you can still wash the bowl and spoon. That gives you a head start on next week’s dishes. (Then again, you could just eat out of the container and only have to wash the spoon.) But beware, if you are inclined to forget to return to the task at hand you may need to skip the break, or tie yourself to the faucet with a long string so you won’t forget to return.

If you still have silverware to wash, it should be next. Then catch any odd pieces you may still have overlooked the first time around. Wash the counter tops, the stove top, empty and rinse your sink, and then wipe it dry ’til it shines–for the “Fly Lady!”

The first time you try this, you may have to keep your mind on the method, but once you are practiced up at it you may be able to plan your next great project from beginning to end or think through an article to write about as you wash so many dishes. How do you think I thought this one up?

Keep in mind that the only way you will ever get away with this excuse for putting off washing dishes is that you are making time to do your “matter of great importance.” Religious people fast to find more time to focus on God. Think of this procrastination as a “fast” of a different sort that enables you to focus on something really great. Reach for the stars!!!

Fasting…, hmmm, now there’s a thought… Maybe we can get this down to washing dishes every other week!